Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works.
In the 1990s, Nickelodeon was a bastion of surprisingly sophisticated children’s animation, and few shows demonstrated that freewheeling sense of absurdity than Rocko’s Modern Life. The tale of a beleaguered wallaby surviving the wildest adventures with little more than a smile on his face and his close-knit group of friends was a generation-defining show, thanks to its surprisingly adult jokes and unhinged tone.
But a huge component of the show’s success comes courtesy of its frenetic, genre-hopping score, courtesy of New Wave legend Pat Irwin. When he first came to the show in the ’90s, he was primarily known as a member of the B-52s and had played with bands like 8-Eyed Spy and the Raybeats. But here, he gave Rocko’s antics vivid life with an unstoppable earworm of a score, flitting between lounge jazz, surf rock, and a host of other influences and touchpoints depending on what shenanigans the wallaby found himself in next.
Now, Nickelodeon Records has finally released an album comprising highlights from the show’s first two seasons. There, you’ll find the classic theme song (sung by The B-52’s Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider), alongside rollercoaster tracks like the lounge-y “Jet Scream” and the reference-heavy “Frog’s Best Friend.”
Irwin joins us on the podcast to talk about his early days in the “no wave” New York music scene, assembling a master team of musicians to record the score, and his current projects (including his ambient country project, SUSS).
You can find Pat Irwin at his official website.
Rocko’s Modern Life is currently streaming on Paramount+. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Nickelodeon Records.